10+ Eastern European Capitals That No One Thinks To Visit – So Go Now!

The Best of Eastern European Capitals

I love Paris. I love London. I even love Rome, but why is it that when we start thinking of buying a ticket to Europe we don’t consider some of the lesser-known capital cities? Recently Jim and I have made it a point to really explore Eastern Europe more. We’ve found the cities to be loaded with beautiful architecture, delicious foods, and plenty to do. But do you know what the best part is? They are all a fraction of the cost of visiting Paris and London. Your money goes so much further; it’s such a good feeling to know that you can still travel to places relatively unknown and not have to break the bank to do it. Here are our top ten favorite Eastern European capital cities.

10 Eastern European Capitals That No One Thinks To Visit - So Go Now!
Charming and colorful town squares can be found in almost every Eastern European capital city.
10 Eastern European Capitals That No One Thinks To Visit - So Go Now!
After such a recent turbulent past for many Eastern European cities, it’s their time to shine!

As much as I love visiting the countryside, villages, and smaller cities everywhere I go, traveling to capital cities are such a good way to be introduced to the country. The capital is where you will find at least one major historical museum, an art museum, great restaurants, government buildings, and usually a fantastic pubic transportation system so you can easily get around. It’s also the easiest place to visit in each country since it’s always serviced with an international airports. I love to go to capital cities on the weekend or for day trips, but if I’m building a country-wide itinerary for two weeks or longer, I tend to get out of the city right away, then come back and do these things at the end after I’ve seen the rest. That way when I go to the museum and the artist is from X town, I’ve been there and can relate to it much better. I do know a lot of travelers that concentrate on just the capital and big cities of a country, though, because there is always so much to do.

Without further ado, here is my list of ten European capital cities that you should put on your travel itinerary. These are all ones that we’ve fallen in love with and think you will too. We’ve listed the must-see history and art museum, plus our recommendations for a restaurant and hotel. We hope it will get you started!

The Best Eastern European Cities to Visit Before the Rest of the World

10 Eastern European Capitals That No One Thinks To Visit - So Go Now!
Tallinn’s main town square is full of gorgeous architecture, and there are plenty of cafes for you to sit, try some local fare and watch the world go by.

Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn is one of the cities that really has been growing in popularity in the last few years. It is a small city, very walkable, and there is plenty to do. We enjoyed many of the museums, some tucked right into the wall towers, as well as the amazing food that they have to offer. Tallinn, more than most, celebrates their link to the Middle Ages with costumes, pubs, and people dressed up wandering the streets.

We had so much fun in this small city. We were there in winter, and it didn’t slow us down one bit. I’m sure it’s even more beautiful during the warmer months. We loved seeing all the sights  of Tallinn, but we also did one other very cool thing that I’ve never heard of before, and that was finding out all about the history of marzipan, then making it and painting it.

History: Fat Margaret Maritime Museum
Art: Kumu Art Museum
Restaurant: Rataskaevu 16
Hotel: Tabinoya

10 Eastern European Capitals That No One Thinks To Visit - So Go Now!
Helsinki’s port is bustling with tourists and locals alike, and no wonder when you have views like this!

Helsinki, Finland

From Tallinn we were fortunate enough to visit another amazing city, Helsinki. We discovered that Helsinki is cold.  Very cold. We visited in winter, but sometimes I feel that you should go to a place when it’s the hardest. Needless to say, we had a little bit of time getting used to the bitter cold, but of course the locals are used to winter, and we saw folks swimming in the heated, seaside pools while we were bundled from head to toe. Along with the list of mandatory Helsinki tourist sites, we also warmed up in cafe after cafe. All of them were chic and cozy.

History:  National Museum of Finland
Art: Ateneum Art Museum
Restaurant: Olo Ravintola
Hotel: Original Sokos Hotel Tapiola Garden Espoo

10 Eastern European Capitals That No One Thinks To Visit - So Go Now!
Ljubljana has been dubbed by us as the prettiest. The Slovenians take great care with their appearance, and the architecture is stunning.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

We visited this beautiful capital city on Sunday, which is always a good day to see what locals do. We walked around a flea market and joined the throngs of folks visiting the castle for lunch and shopping. With the Sava River running right through town, there are cafes, bakeries, and restaurants galore. We walked, gawked, and ate all day. Not only is Ljubljana a great destination, it’s also a fantastic jumping off point to a bunch of other amazing natural sights in Slovenia.

Here are some of our favorite posts in Ljubljana:

Three Best Ways to Experience Lake Bled, Slovenia

Three Natural Excursion Day Trips Around Lake Bled

History:  National Museum of Contemporary History
Art: National Gallery
Restaurant: Restavracija Strelec, in the Ljubljana castle
Hotel: Lesar Hotel Angel

Riga surprised us with her medieval town center, statues and artwork, and some of the friendliest people!

Riga, Latvia

We spent a weekend in Riga, at the end of fall so it was getting cool. Luckily, we were led around by a small group of locals, showing us things we might have discovered on our own but didn’t have to. We weren’t on a walking tour, but it’s one reason to take those free walking tours when you get to a city, you will always learn and see something you would have missed. Riga is also a medieval city, recognized by UNESCO, and it is gorgeous. We can’t wait to go back.

History: KGB Building File No. 1914/2014
Art: Latvian National Museum of Art
Restaurant: Muusu
Hotel: Hotel Roma

Lithuania in the middle of winter is cold and damp, but that just gives you a reason to try out more of their trendy cafes and hearty food.

Vilnius, Lithuania

Another winter foray into the east, this time we visited some teachers on an exchange and went to Kaunas and Trakai Castle in Lithuania gets extremely cold. We spent only a day in Vilnius but the stark and dreary weather just accentuated all the great things to do, since a lot of them revolve around the Soviet era. Great museums and beautiful architecture greet you on every street. The part we enjoyed the most was getting to know our hosts, drinking coffee, sharing the national snack and eating a special Lithuanian Apple Cake

History: Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania, National Museum
Art: National Art Gallery
Restaurant: Berneliu Uzeiga
Hotel: City Hotels Rūdninkai

10 Eastern European Capitals That No One Thinks To Visit - So Go Now!
Sofia is full of history, full of gorgeous buildings, and Bulgarian food….yum!

Sofia, Bulgaria

We’ve been to Sofia twice; that’s how much we love it. Of all the cities we’ve visited, this one has many Ottoman and Byzantine remnants and churches that are so intriguing to visit. That with the amazing Bulgarian food, you can’t go wrong. We’ve spent lots of time in Bulgaria, and again that’s because we’ve enjoyed the interactions with the local people as well as all of the amazing food they serve. We took a week long road trip through the country, and just like we imagined, Sofia wasn’t anything like the rest of the country.

Here are some of the best posts we’ve written on this amazing destination:

World Heritage Site – Rila Monastery

Things to do in Plovdiv

History: National Institute of Archaeology with Museum
Art: Museum of Socialist Art
Restaurant: Restaurant Shtastliveca
Hotel: Les Fleurs Boutique Hotel

Belgrade hasn’t quite updated as much as some of the other Eastern European capitals, but what it does do is ooze old world charm.

Belgrade, Serbia

Belgrade isn’t quite as bright and shiny as some of the other Eastern European capitals, but as you walk along the main pedestrian street you are captivated by the sunken book shops, the hipster cafes, and it’s not hard to imagine how bleak life was only a couple of decades ago. Luckily while we were there in mid-summer the sun was shining, we walked all over, loved seeing all the major sights, eating in the cool cafes, and the highlight of our trip was the Tesla Museum. Who would have thought?

History: Museum of Yugoslav History
Art: Galerija STAB
Restaurant: Zavicaj Restaurant
Hotel: Hotel Nevski

10 Eastern European Capitals That No One Thinks To Visit - So Go Now!
Skopje sports a warm and bustling city center, and everything you need to do is very easily accessible.

Skopje, Macedonia

Skopje is really trying to renovate and update. As we walked around the downtown areas, full of statues, flower beds, flowers, cafes, museums, and old bazaars we noticed such an eclectic mix of old and new. It’s a city in flux, and it’s working hard to attract tourists. We loved the completely different vibe it gave off as opposed to all of the other capitals we visited. We also loved the amazing food.

History:  Archaeological Museum of Macedonia
Art: Contemporary Art Museum of Macedonia
Restaurant: Skopski Merak
Hotel: Stone Bridge Hotel

10 Eastern European Capitals That No One Thinks To Visit - So Go Now!
Bucharest, picturesque and friendly, makes you feel welcome whether you are just walking through a park or sitting at a cafe.

Bucharest, Romania

With a lively downtown area, people were lounging, eating, drinking, and having a merry time all day and all night long. The beautiful downtown area had a lot to do, eat, and drink. While we were there, people were outside drinking coffee, chatting, and smiling. There was lots of smiling.

There is plenty to do in Romania, not just Bucharest. We took a short road trip on the Transfagarsan Highway, visited Sighisoara, home of Vlad the Impaler, and even visited some world heritage site churches along the way.

History: The National History Museum of Romania
Art: The National Museum of Art of Romania
Restaurant: Vatra
Hotel: Grand Hotel Continental

10 Eastern European Capitals That No One Thinks To Visit - So Go Now!

Bratislava, Slovakia

Bratislava is located in a great triangle of cities to include Budapest and Vienna. The downtown area is colorful, vibrant, and full of things to do. It’s well worth a day trip. It doesn’t take long to see the sights of this small capital city, but just because it’s small doesn’t mean it doesn’t have plenty to share. We loved the busy downtown, and we’ve even visited in winter when the Christmas market is in full swing. It was lovely.

History: Bratislava City Museum
Art: Danubiana Meulensteen Art Museum
Restaurant: Bratislavsky Mestiansky pivovar
Hotel: Aplend City Hotel Michalska

We hope this quick guide will help you get started planning your weekend trips to some Eastern European capital cities. We don’t think you will be disappointed.

Have you been to any of these cities? What was your favorite spot?

Save Eastern European Cities for later.

Want to visit some gorgeous European cities, but you don't want to break the bank? We've listed some lesser known and beautiful capital cities in Eastern Europe that we think you will love. Click here to start your travel planning! #Europe #Skopje #Bratislava #Sofia #Tallinn #Bucharest #Helsinki #ReflectionsEnroute

















Love traveling where there are no crowds, but you can still find great restaurants, cafes, museums, and downtown areas? You will want to start exploring the capitals of Eastern Europe. We love them, and we'll tell you where you should go to have the best time! #EasternEurope #capitalcities #Helsinki #Bratislava #Skopje #Belgrade #Bucharest #beauty #solo #ReflectionsEnroute

18 thoughts on “10+ Eastern European Capitals That No One Thinks To Visit – So Go Now!”

  1. This is a great list. David hates crowds so cities like these, just slightly off the tourist trail, would be a real find for us. We have been to Ljubjana and loved it but we haven’t been to any of the others you mention. We have toyed with the idea of visiting Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. This post might just prompt me to dust off our plans for those countries and get going.

  2. Corinne I so want to get to all 10 places you have listed. So far I have only made it to Ljubljana, Belgrade and Bratislava and loved them all in that order. I just wish we were closer to Europe so we could visit more and more, but Eastern Europe is definitely an area we hope to explore next trip. Loved this post.

  3. This is a great and inspiring list. Eastern Europe and the Scandinavia region often get overlooked for the mainstream capital cities. We’ve only been to Tallinn and Helsinki on this list. We’d love to explore more of Eastern Europe. We really loved Tallinn and hope to return soon. I’m eyeing Vilnius and Sofia on this list.

  4. I’m sorry to say that I have only visited several East European countries. All your blog posts have inspired me to move a number of these countries up on my list. Unfortunately, there is only so much time and South America is next up. At least I have your posts to inspire my travel to Eastern Europe.

  5. I discovered Central and Eastern Europe last year and fell in love with the cities and countryside. I agree, they are way cheaper and less crowded. I haven’t been to any of the cities in your list, so, I have to travel a lot.

  6. I would love to go to any of these! John has been to conferences in Sofia* a couple of times but I think that’s the only one either of us could tick off. They just take such a long time to get to from Scotland. We went to Budapest last month, chosen basically by running our eyes down the list of direct flights from Glasgow and Edinburgh. It was great though!

    *The first time in the late 80s. He had to buy a package holiday to a beach resort then get a bus, as there were no scheduled flights to Sofia at all! So things have improved since then….

      1. Yes, but we have to get to London or (preferably Amsterdam) first so it would need to be much longer than a weekend to make the travelling time worth it. However, maybe after we’ve been to Canada this year we will rethink our major vacation destinations which have been exclusively North American for the last decade. Reading your travels in Eastern Europe is definitely inspiring me!

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